Recon: White Label
Highpoint Lowlife Records

Chris Coode's Recon release White Label resurrects in stunning manner the deep metallic dub-techno style so indelibly associated with the Basic Channel-Chain Reaction labels. More specifically, the album recalls the tracks on Substance's Session Elements and Various Artists' Decay Product as, like them, Recon's pieces are more machine-like than those on Porter Ricks' Biokinetics or Monolake's Hong Kong. The latter two partake of the general BC-CR style but their tracks unfold along relatively conventional lines with discernible developmental arcs. By contrast, those on White Label (much like those on the Substance and Various Artists recordings) are more static. Certainly they develop to the degree that patterns gradually layer onto others, but the patterns themselves once added change little. On “Va/lov+,” for example, squelches and smears loop over a simple stick rhythm until voice cut-ups appear, but from then on the track continues without variation until its end. Similarly, “Section” deploys a base rhythm of metallic clatter for the garblings and snuffling noises that gradually surface, but once the elements are in place the piece relentlessly continues towards its close.

All of which could be wrongfully interpreted as a criticism when it's meant more as an observation. The album's repetitive leanings induce an hypnotic effect that, in spite of its machine-like regularity, exudes a drifting, hazy feel; furthermore, while the general Recon sound is minimal, industrial, and immersive, its rich range of grainy textures commands listening interest in spite of that repetitiveness. Compare, for instance, the dubby twanging in “M15” with the rolling waves of prickly machines that dominate “Clear.” A particular standout is “Dirt,” a funkier head-nodder whose soft crackles mix with vibrant hums and ghostly voices. It's the one track that most threatens to defy the Recon template and develop more conventionally but, true to form, hews to its looping patterns throughout. While Coode's stripped-down approach may be consistent with the album's stark and extremely minimal packaging design, there's nothing lacking in White Label's texturally lush machine music.

September 2004